How to Easily Brighten Shadows and Grey Areas in Photos

If you find your lovely white-background photos are looking a little grey, or poor light has created harsh shadows, here’s a little tool to brighten your day. 

The Dodge Tool lightens areas of an image. It’s named after the original darkroom technique for lightening areas of a photograph. By dodging light, photographers were able to create bright areas on film. It’s easy and quick to use, and is ideal for brightening white backgrounds, softening harsh shadows, or lightening dark areas in an otherwise well-exposed image.

 
 
Do you take photos on a white background but even after brightening, they look grey? Or you've taken a photo on a bright day, so have ended up with really dark shadows? The Dodge Tool can come to the rescue! It is easy to use and you can paint on as much brightening as you need. This Photoshop video tutorial will demonstrate this tool by softening shadows on a stock photo. itsorganised.com video tutorial
 
 

THE DODGE TOOL 

This tool is perfect for spot brightening areas of an image. In the example below, I didn’t want to brighten the whole photo, as I was happy with the exposure of the objects. I just wanted to soften the shadows and clean up the grey areas in the corners.

You could achieve the same effect by selecting an object, masking it and then brightening the whole image. The masked object would be protected from any changes. Masks have the advantage of being non-destructive. This method does, however, take a lot longer. 

Sometimes, you just need a quick tool to touch up a photo, save and you’re done. The Dodge Tool is that quick tool. You can just target the areas you want to brighten, leaving any well-exposed areas alone.  

It isn’t limited to shadows and white backgrounds. If you have a bright image and find some of the darker areas have been under exposed, you can gently lighten them without blowing out the well-lit areas.  

If you’d like to have a play, you can download the photograph used in the video from the Resource Library

The Dodge Tool is a destructive form of editing, i.e. it makes permanent changes to your photograph. To allow for this, always make a duplicate of your image first. That way, if you overdo things, you can just revert to the original and start again. 

 

VIDEO TUTORIAL 

This video will show you how to: 

  • Create a duplicate of your photograph.
  • Select and set the options for the Dodge Tool.
  • Soften shadows.
 
 

THE STEP-BY-STEP

  1. Start by making a duplicate of your photograph by pressing Cmd/Ctrl J.
  2. Select the Dodge Tool (shortcut O) from the Tool Bar on the left. It’s about halfway down and looks like a lollipop.
  3. On the Options Bar at the top of the screen, you need set the brush settings: choose a soft round brush, set the Range to Midtones, and set your Exposure to around 30%. 
  4. Adjust the size of your brush to suit the area you are working on. The left square bracket makes the brush smaller, the right square bracket makes it larger.
  5. Paint over the areas you want to brighten, continuing to adjust the brush size as you move to different areas of your photo.
  6. When you are happy with the change, save your new, brightened image.

 

BEFORE & AFTER

After I softened the shadows in the video, I continued to brighten the grey areas. You’ll notice the change in the corners of the photograph.   

Do you take photos on a white background but even after brightening, they look grey? Or you've taken a photo on a bright day, so have ended up with really dark shadows? The Dodge Tool can come to the rescue! It is easy to use and you can paint on as much brightening as you need. This Photoshop video tutorial will demonstrate this tool by softening shadows on a stock photo. itsorganised.com video tutorial

If you are looking for a quick tool to brighten areas or backgrounds, the Dodge Tool is one worth playing with. It is quicker than selecting and masking for simple editing and is a great time saver. 

Feel free to grab the example photo from the Resource Library to practice on.